Stage 3 journal

I had shot a lot of pre-race photos by today, so I wasn't too interested in taking lots of shots in the morning. I clicked off some for the Justin England fan club and also tried umpteen takes of the Slipstream bikes reflected on their bus, to no avail. Mario suggested heading up course to try and find a scenic spot, so I we high-tailed it out of town early.

Justin England - (c) Ken Conley Toyota United - (c) Ken Conley Rory Sutherland - (c) Ken Conley Slipstream - (c) Ken Conley

Driving ahead of the caravan is a bit of a thrill. You have course marshals flagging you through the course, you're speeding, and there's Georgia State Police everywhere. You're constantly having to decide "friend or foe" for each cop car you pass. I had read about Slipstream's run-in with the po-po, so I was more than a bit paranoid.

The plan was to drive to the intermediate sprint in Comer and stop instead if we found something scenic before that. The country was pretty, but nothing seemed worth being our one stop for the day, so we kept on driving. Comer didn't seem like much, so we kept on driving. Eventually we stopped in Danielsville. Some nice guys invited us to shoot out of the upstairs window of their hardware store. Mario and I split up, with me taking his idea of shooting through a window while he shot riders coming through a traffic circle. I chatted with the locals, who provided me with a map of the area, pointed out shortcuts, and also shared important Georgia cultural information like, everyone drives 20 mph over the speed limit. This is significant, given their 70mph highway speed limits.

Breakaway - (c) Ken Conley Danielsville - (c) Ken Conley

We quickly jumped back on the back of the caravan and then split off to hightail it to Gainesville. The finish line was a bit of a shock. Looking at it, experience told me that it was an uphill sprint. But no, for the first time, I was seeing a downhill sprint finish. I believe the PA announcer used the folksy expression, "the sprint will be like rolling a bowling ball down an alligator pit." Many thought something bad was going to happen.

We got to see two laps, which is always a treat and gives plenty of time to figure out which camera settings you want to use. Rory Sutherland really kicked things up -- we heard about Sevilla, but we didn't get to see any of it.

Sutherland Soloes into Red - (c) Ken Conley Sutherland Soloes into Red - (c) Ken Conley High Road - (c) Ken Conley peloton - (c) Ken Conley

The actual finish was odd, due to its downhill nature. It seemed remarkably devoid of any of the chaos of a normal finish. I have not seen video of the sprint, but, as I recall it, High Road's Greipel led things out at the top of the hill, calmly pulled off, and there was Henderson. Quite strange for such a lengthy sprint, but not surprising giving the downhill speeds. More impressive than seeing Henderson take the stage was seeing Andre Greipel able to shut things down and still coast into second.

Henderson Wins the Sprint - (c) Ken Conley Henderson Wins the Sprint - (c) Ken Conley Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley

Once again I handed my second camera off to Katrina Florence, who was right next to the finish line. I didn't have the camera settings dialed in right for her, but I got what I wanted: a shot that showed the separation on the sprint.

Greg Henderson - (c) Ken Conley

I spent the rest of the evening hanging out with the Rock Racing and Action Images folks. The Rock Racing 'Beast' truck had just arrived from a cross-country drive from Sea Otter. The Beast is a cross between a semi and a motor home, with less manueverability than either. We loaded it up with new Rock merch and then relaxed with beer and Photoshop/Lightroom tips because, when photographers get drunk, they talk about history brushes and layer masks.

related articles: Tour de Georgia 2008
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Comments (1)

Ken, you're doing an outstanding job with the "color commentary" / background info for this TdG. I'm loving all the writing.

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